How has Fred Hoiberg impacted the Chicago Bulls?

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Last season, in what was to be Tom Thibodeau's final campaign as the Chicago Bulls head coach, the Windy City franchise posted a record of 50-33.

They made the Eastern Conference playoffs as the three seed and made it to the Semifinals before losing to the eventual conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2.

Once the dust had settled on the season, management in Chicago opted to fire Thibodeau from his role as head coach, a position he had held for five years. 

During his time in Chicago, Thibs had turned the Bulls into a perennial defensive force - they were a top five team in defensive efficiency four out of his five years.

Under his leadership, Chicago never failed to make the Eastern Conference playoffs, with their worst record, 45-37, still being a winning one.

Despite these obvious signs that he is one of the best coaches in the NBA, Jerry Reinsdorf and co. decided to replace him with Iowa State Cyclones head coach - Fred Hoiberg. 


Hoiberg, affectionately known as 'The Mayor', was well known in the NBA having previously had a playing career spanning from 1995-2005 (playing for the Indiana Pacers, ChicagoBulls and Minnesota Timberwolves). 

Much like Thibodeau, he coached for his former team from 2010-2015 in which his Cyclones built a reputation for playing a fast, ball movement offense capable of shooting threes frequently and efficiently.

The 43-year-old was considered the opposite to Thibodeau, Bulls fans were hoping 'The Mayor' did not run players into the ground as his predecessor has been accused of doing.

So what has Hoiberg actually done whilst in Chicago? 

Hoiberg's Bulls currently possess a record of 33-32, good enough for eighth in the Eastern Conference just ahead of the Detroit Pistons. Chicago's 101.1 offensive efficiency rating is 25th in the NBA, last year under Thibodeau their rating was 104.7, good enough for the 10th most efficient offense in the NBA. 

When watching the Bulls you can visibly see that they are not the offense they have been in previous seasons and it is often slow and plodding.

Under Hoiberg, they were supposed to be more of a shooting team, he was supposed to implement his uptempo ball movement offense. So what happened? 

First of all, General Manager Gar Forman could not give Hoiberg players that fit his system, the Bulls had the fifth least cap room of any team during the 2015 offseason with -$17million. 

This meant that the new head coach had to adapt his system to players such as Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks etc. 

Some players on the team who were expected to fit the offense have faired much better - forwards Doug McDermott and Tony Snell have been solid contributors for the Bulls, for example.


McDermott, in particular, has more than tripled his per game scoring average going from three points to 9.3 points. Whilst not overly impressive numbers, McDermott has seen a rise in three-point attempts per game (to 3.3 from 1.1) and three-point % (31.7 to 42.0). 

Most importantly, McDermott has seemingly developed his game more than ever expected. He came out of college with a reputation as a three-point shooter and not much else, but, since playing for Hoiberg, Dougie McBuckets has toned his body. 

This, in turn, has developed more of a slashing game and has proven he can attack the rim. He's a much better finisher at the basket than expected. 

This, in turn, has helped him developed more of a slashing game and has proven he can attack the rim. He's a much better finisher at the basket than expected. 

Defensive strength

Rather unsurprisingly, a team full of players who excelled in Tom Thibodeau's defensive system are still one of the better defensive units in the NBA. 

The Bulls are currently the 10th ranked defensive team with a rating of 102.7, this is actually better than Thibs' final Bulls season in which they posted a rating of 101.5. 

The argument that the Bulls are just using Thibs' system is fair, however the single best defender on this team - All-NBA guard Jimmy Butler - has missed 12 games through injury.

Butler's the guy who you put on the opposing teams best offensive player so losing him for a decent portion of the season should impact your team, but not in this case. Hoiberg has managed to keep the ship steady defensively. 

It is also worth noting here that Butler hasn't been Chicago's only injury concern this season. With Joakim Noah ruled out of the campaign early on, and the likes of Derrick Rose and now Pau Gasol also spending time on the treatment table it hasn't been easy putting together a roster capable of competing.

moving forward

Whilst the Bulls may not be able to score as well under Hoiberg, they are capable of slowing down most teams in the NBA.

Given that Gar Forman and the Bulls front office could potentially have around $16million in cap room during this summer, it is fair to assume Hoiberg will be given some players that fit his system and grow on both sides of the ball. 

The Bulls still have control of their playoff destiny, if Jimmy Butler returns from injury expect Hoiberg's crew to squeeze in and potentially be a first round nightmare for the Cavaliers or Raptors. 

Eastern Conference
Pau Gasol
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Doug McDermott

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